From the Editor
The Power of Word of Mouth
by Sherri Kimmel, Senior Editor
October 3, 2011
Some of the best stories are the result of a happy accident.
Such was the case in 2000, when I traveled to Wilberforce, Ohio, to interview
Charlotte Young McStallworth ’34, who was then the oldest living black graduate
of Dickinson. As we explored her life story, she offhandedly mentioned a family
friend who had been the principal of Lincoln High School, the all-black school
she attended in Carlisle. His name was Gilbert H. Jones, a class of 1906
As soon as
I returned from Ohio, I contacted archivist Jim Gerencser ’93, who quickly
produced a file on Jones. Thanks to Charlotte, who just died this August, I
also returned to campus with the phone number of Jones’ 89-year-old daughter.
In my short profile of Jones I noted that he was the first black American to
earn a Ph.D. from a German university, the dean and president of the
historically black Wilberforce University and recipient of an honorary doctor
of laws from Dickinson in 1959, seven years before his death.
Twelve years passed, and I hadn’t thought much about Jones—until this April, when I received an e-mail with this subject line: “an inquiry about an article you
wrote in 2001 on Gilbert Haven Jones.” The e-mail came from Robert Munro, a
Ph.D. candidate in African American and African studies, who was writing his
dissertation on Jones. He’d come across my article when he’d contacted our
Archives & Special Collections and had some questions about my research.
Well, I had some questions about his.
Gilbert H. Jones, this distinguished early black graduate of ours, is finally
getting his long-delayed due. Munro pointed me to another piece on Jones, by
George Yancy, published in the fall 2003 American Philosophical Association
Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience, which furthered Jones’
reputation as an early black philosopher and educator.
asserted that Jones was “well-known as a great administrator, an enthusiast for
the maintenance of black institutional power, and as a brilliant scholar.” The
article cited a statement made by Robert V. Guthrie in his book Even the Rat
Was White: A Historical View of Psychology: “Jones was the first black person
with an earned doctorate to teach psychology in the United States.”
dissertation will take this important fact a step further by asserting that
Jones was not only a leading black intellectual but a pioneering American
philosopher—exclusive of race. As Munro races to finish his scholarly
treatment, his recent encyclopedia entry on Jones for BlackPast.org is earning
our graduate greater exposure.
fourth-year Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University, Munro spent three
years translating Jones’ dissertation, written in German for his University of
Jena degree. Jones’ subject was a branch of philosophy called personalism, to
which Martin Luther King Jr. would later subscribe. Jones went on to publish
one book, in 1919, Education in Theory and Practice, which Munro says “told you
everything you could ever need to know about building a school or educational
curriculum from the bottom up.” Jones’ experience as a high-school principal in
Carlisle, says Munro, “absolutely had an impact” on what he imparted in this
certain that Jones would have published more had he not worked at a
historically black university, “where they overworked all these scholars. Men
would wear many hats and be forced to do 17 different things because they had a
Ph.D. at a time when it was rare and very valuable to get a black professor
with a Ph.D. He wanted to help out with student organizations, and teaching was
seen as more important than theoretical research.”
did Munro learn about Jones in the first place? The same way I did, word of
mouth—though not from McStallworth. Munro’s Ph.D. advisor attended Central
State University, a historically black institution that is a close neighbor to
Wilberforce, and he suggested that Munro explore Jones’ work.
gratifying to see, more than a decade after I stumbled upon Jones, that he is
getting further recognition as a pioneering black intellectual. In the
following pages, you’ll learn about a much-later Dickinson grad who also could
be thusly described.
cover-story subject, Komozi Woodard ’71, gained his early groundings as a black
scholar and activist here, before going on to a distinguished academic career.
Succeeding stories in this issue concern other black alumni, including our
first known, John Robert Paul Brock, class of 1901, and Dickinson’s advances in
diversity during the last decade as well as stories on initiatives geared to
uplift Native Americans. I hope you find this entire issue—as well as
additional content at www.dickinson.edu/magazine—uplifting, as well.